:Archive Of July 2002:

Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 10:31 PM -

I hadn't thought of it that way, but it works: blogging is swarming.

Man, this is going to get weird with imbedded and pervasive computing.

Monday, July 29, 2002 - 8:36 AM -

Obscurity at its best: a very nice open source win95/98 style update for win3.1. Some people like building hotrods, others like building gui's.

Been fixing a junked laptop for fun. Classic Mies style IBM Thinkpad that was suffering from a fried battery pack fuse, a couple of charred chips on the dc/dc board, a misconnected cdrom, and broken mylar circuits. Oh, and a cmos battery so dead that the machine could only boot once if left alone for a day. Turned out it was so far gone that after the first boot it would become not just dead but an open circuit. Fortunately you can fix just about anything with lamp cord, scotch tape, and a jackknife.

For complicated reasons it would not run 95, so I went back to 3.1. (After sussing driver issues with the pcmcia and cdrom, which are buried in IBM's site, and they didn't update the online drivers, or link these to the solution. [Note to self, site-wide search engines are a good thing, but not ones that produce results that lead to 404's. I hope that's not a problem with any of their newer machines.])

So. Anyway. It gave me an excuse to try Calmira, and it's really impressive. Win3.1 had an awful gui, and this 98-alike is very slick, entirely tweakable, and takes up a whole 1.6mb. And will run on a 386 with only 4mb. Impressive. Sure, you're limited to mostly 16bit programs (3.1 can run a few 32bit with a microsoft update) but that includes a 16bit IE5.01 and Outlook.

I'll find out more of what it can do once I get the networking issues sorted. Or rather after friend Saen of the bouncing IP does, because it has me stumped for the moment.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002 - 11:56 PM -

yow. thank you, curt.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002 - 9:17 PM -

Ben Rubin, in an article that gets off the ground as soon as the writer gets out of the way. Follow with this radio cut from WNYC on Listening Post, if you like, and a semi-related series of samples of server traffic as audio; " Visitors accessing the most general information affected the loudness and tonal balance of a low-register drone. Requests for content deep in the site are represented as higher-pitched pulsing tones: the faster the pulse, the more people are accessing that area, and the higher the pitch, the more detailed the content."

What drew me into the Ben Rubin article was the pictures. I've been thinking about the surfaces of our modern world, and got hooked by his use of that in the installations.

If you have time and bandwidth, see Listening Post at Ear Studio.

Monday, July 15, 2002 - 11:33 PM -

Back in the day, in Toronto, there was a chap who used to stand on Yonge Street with a box of his self-published fiction and a cardboard sign scrawled with something like "Very Unpopular Author. Buy My Book."

I'm half tempted to do that myself. Take a carton of what I've begun to call the Scottish Book to a corner downtown and rage like a deranged evangelist about the benefits of CSS and the perils of non-compliance.

Trouble is, I think I'd really enjoy that.

- 10:52 PM -

Hooked: a weekly dose of architecture.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002 - 8:29 PM -

Fun. Nice skyscraper resource with a configurable search. Aeons ago when I was a courier I was in these building often, and it never occurred to me that they were actual Mies van der Rohes, and not Mies-alikes. Now I'm trying to remember what their interiors looked like.

- 12:33 PM -

Oh... maybe that's half of it.

I don't like reading serif on the web. I have a really hard time reading sub 1.0 em serif, and don't like 1.0 em serif much either. In print, I'm okay with serif but still prefer sans.

There's an oft repeated generalism that sans is better for screen, and serif for print. I think that's probably lightly researched hooey, and would like the test subjects to be also tested for mild dyslexia, slight colour blindness, whether they're left or right handed, etc, before I'd put much stock in it. I suspect legibility is a combination of a few dozen things, and whether letters have tails or not just triggers different groups for different people.

Meanwhile I figure my brain just has a harder time with serif than 'average'. I wonder about this daily when I hit one of my favorite logs and have to pay close attention to keep my eyes from skipping out of the text. It's serif, it's small, and I have a real hard time reading it. 98% of the web I can deal with, but this one site, by a man of unassailable good taste and design reason, is awful. Why? Why did he choose that font at that size? Are our brains just on opposite sides of the average?

I just realized the monitor may be half the problem. My main monitor is very good, but it's not the sharpest. So I tried a smaller but razor-sharp one. Noticeable improvement, though 9/10ths the size. Still not great, but things now make some sense. The author of that site uses a top-of-the-line flat display.

Now I'm thinking about the bulk of people using cheap flickering monitors in brightly lit rooms. A lot of people surf the web on the equivalent of cheap newsprint. If you design for premium bond paper, they're going to have a hard time. Hrm.

(There's an opportunity here for Mac folk to chime in about the superiority of their display design. In general, you're right, but in this case... my less sharp monitors are my Apples. All that Cupertino shipped was not gold.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2002 - 10:12 PM -

If you haven't had your fill of odd yet, watch the Simpsons, Wallace and Grommit, and Muppets, hawk products on Japanese TV.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002 - 10:12 PM -

Is it just me, or doesn't anyone use Netscape 6? I've been taking it seriously as the 'other' name-brand browser, but my ref logs show only half as many N6 as N4, and my N4 traffic is trivial.

Thank goodness Moz has finally gone 1.0. I can't stand the klunky interface, but it's a solid full feature browser for the masses. I like Opera, but Opera doesn't have DOM support, doesn't have a modern version for Mac, doesn't support authenticated SMTP, doesn't have email filters, and plug-in detection can be a bad joke. And they charge for it, which isn't unfair, but their competition doesn't, so the above omissions are notable.

What Opera does have is a great interface. You're not trapped in archaic toolbar menus. Everything can be done a few ways, with clear non-geek descriptions, and there's not just lots of short-cut keys, but smart ones. They've got an excellent interface team. The browser is a pleasure.

Moz is a beige sedan. Opera is an MGB; great fun to use, but the roof leaks. It's a compromise. I'm looking forward to them filling in the gaps and becoming the Miata.

To be fair, one should note that Opera is an independent company, not funded by a media giant. I'm sure they know their shortcomings and it's simply a matter of resources. That they've done this well is amazing.

Oh, and 6.04 for Windows is out.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002 - 10:12 PM -

electronluv. Because pixels aren't always enough.

- 5:23 PM -

Just because I can never find the link when I want to, let's put it here. "16th Century Samurai Siamese" by Jeff de Boer.

Oh, and today's soundtrack.

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